Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Improve My Study Habits?
“HOW much homework do you get,” an Awake! staff writer asked a group of school-age youths. Their reply was immediate and in almost perfect unison: “TOO MUCH!” Complained one girl, “After we’ve spent hours in school, why don’t they give us a break when we get home?”
But if you want both good grades and skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life, it will take time and effort on your part. ‘What one sows one reaps.’ (Galatians 6:7) How, though, can school and study time be used most effectively?
In the Classroom
“I always daydreamed,” said Ronda. “That was my biggest problem. That’s why I got such bad grades. My mind would be off somewhere else. Always wandering.” Failure to listen is so widespread that some schools have classes for listening instruction. Perhaps all that is really needed, though, is strong motivation and a willingness to put forth some extra effort.
Says the author of How to Study in High School: “Time spent in class is learning time. When you are in class, listen carefully to the teacher’s explanations and to the discussions and other lessons.” As a youth, Jesus took advantage of opportunities to learn. At age 12 he came to be in the company of teachers of the Bible. Did he daydream? No, for his parents “found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them.” (Luke 2:41, 46) Why not do the same?
Your Study Environment
Following through on homework assignments, however, is difficult for many youths. Dr. William Glasser points out, though, that many students “have less than ideal conditions at home in which to work.” Most of us need a quiet place that is set aside for study. If you share a room, or if space is limited in your home, improvise! Perhaps the kitchen, or someone’s bedroom, can be proclaimed your study area for an hour or so each evening. Or, as a last resort, try a public library or a friend’s home.
If possible, use a desk or a table with plenty of space on which to spread out your work. Keep supplies such as pencils and paper handy so you won’t have to get up constantly. Distracting pictures, or desk-top souvenirs might best be removed. And, sorry to say, having the TV or the radio on generally works against concentration. So do telephone calls or visits. As author Eugene Schwartz says, “Study is business—all business.”
Make sure, too, that you have adequate, glare-free lighting (at least 100 watts). Good lighting reduces study fatigue and protects your eyes as well. And don’t forget to check ventilation and room temperature. A cool room provides a more invigorating study environment than a warm room does.
What if you find yourself thinking, ‘I’m just not in the mood for studying’? Remember, study is serious business, and life seldom allows us the luxury of indulging our moods. Your parents likely have to perform their various tasks in and out of the right mood. Homework can therefore be viewed as an exercise in self-discipline, a rehearsal for later work experience. At a secular job, you will have to start work at the same time every day. And employers value workers who can be trusted to work by themselves. So be businesslike about your homework. Says one educator: “If possible, studying should be done in the same place and at the same time every day. Thus, regular study will become a habit, and . . . will reduce your resistance to study.”
Your Study Routine
At Philippians 3:16 Paul encouraged Christians to “go on walking orderly in this same routine.” Paul was speaking of the course of Christian living. However, a routine, or pattern of doing things, is helpful in other aspects of life too—such as when you study. Try organizing what you are going to study. Avoid studying similar subjects (such as two different foreign languages) in sequence. Plan brief breaks between subjects, especially if your homework load is heavy.
If your assignment involves a lot of reading, you might try the following method. First, you SURVEY your material. Glance through the assigned material, looking at subheadings, charts, and so forth, so as to get an overall view of it. Next, make up QUESTIONS based on chapter titles or topic sentences at the beginning of paragraphs. (This keeps your mind focused on what you read.) Now you READ, looking for the answers to these questions. When you’ve finished each paragraph or section, you RECITE, or tell yourself from memory, what you have read, without looking at the book. And when you have finished the entire assignment, you REVIEW by scanning headings and testing your memory of each section. Some claim that this method has helped students retain up to 80 percent of what they read!
Thinking on what you read will help you to retain it. One educator says: “It’s important to have the student realize that a fact doesn’t exist in isolation but is always related to other information.” Try, therefore, to relate what you study to what you already know and have experienced. In this way, facts begin to mean something to you; your knowledge grows into understanding. And as Solomon observed, “To the understanding one knowledge is an easy thing.”—Proverbs 14:6.
‘There Will Be a Test on This Next Week’
These words need not cause you needless anxiety. Your regular routine of studying puts you miles ahead of the student who tries to cram at the last minute. Still, there are a few points to keep in mind.
First of all, try to find out from your teacher what kind of test it will be. Will it be an essay test? Multiple choice? Also, in the days or weeks preceding the test, listen carefully for clues as to what will appear in the test. (“This next point is very important” or, “Be sure to remember that” are typical hints, says Senior Scholastic magazine.) Next you can start (days in advance, if possible) reviewing your notes, textbooks and homework assignments.
Now, homework is a very personal thing, and it would be pointless, even dishonest, somehow to talk a friend into doing it for you. Nevertheless, one of your parents would probably be happy to drill you with questions or listen to you as you recite classroom material. “By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another,” Solomon reminds us.—Proverbs 27:17.
The night before the test, relax and try to get a good night’s sleep. “Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?” says Jesus. (Matthew 6:27) Interestingly, studies indicate that one of the biggest causes of test anxiety is a failure to prepare ahead of time. Beat such anxiety by cultivating good study habits!
Do Your Best!
One girl said, “I feel very defeated when I fail a test . . . Even if I’ve studied real hard, I still feel I’ve let myself down.” But there’s no reason to feel defeated if you have really done your best. And if your efforts at studying have resulted in your attaining a workable knowledge of the subject—even if your test scores don’t seem to reflect that—your efforts have not been wasted.
Grades are merely a way of gauging academic progress. They are not the final judgment on your worth as a person. Nevertheless, take advantage of the time you are in school and learn as much as you can. Usually that effort will be reflected in grades that will make you—and your parents—happy.
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The environment in which you study will often have a powerful effect on both your learning and your grades
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Good study habits will allow you to face tests with more confidence